After four long months, the Los Angeles Lakers are now set to return to the court as they look to capture the franchise’s 17th championship. Head coach Frank Vogel and his staff are getting the players prepared and LeBron James and Anthony Davis are leading the way on the floor, setting the tone for the rest of the team.
At the time the season stopped the Lakers were ranked in the top-5 in both offensive and defensive rating. It would be easy to assume the main goal is just to get back to the level they were at.
But when looking closely, one of the Lakers’ biggest weaknesses this season has been their transition defense. That has been a point of emphasis for the team during practice and film sessions.
“I think we’re pretty close,” Davis said this week. “There still are some things we need to work on, but we were one of the worst teams in transition defense, so we’ve been going over that and watching a ton of film. I think everybody came back in shape, you could tell guys were working during the break. Now it’s just about putting it all back together.”
The fact that the team came back in such great shape shows how important finishing the season with a championship is, but Davis is correct when touching on the team’s transition defense issues.
The Lakers give up 16.8 fast-break points per game, which is tied with the Dallas Mavericks for last in the NBA. With so much size and rim protection, the team is excellent in the half court, but they must shore up in transition, where many teams specialize.
“I feel like our guys are working really hard at it and I feel like for the most part this season we’ve tried to be better at it,” Vogel said. “I do think because of our size and how good we are defensively in the half court, we’ve faced teams that have more of an intent to run against us than maybe other teams. We know that’s the way teams are going to attack us.”
“To me, your transition defense is probably the most difficult area of your defense to get guys on the same page. There’s a lot of fundamentals we want to adhere to, but just the communication, working together to get matched up, to communicate, those things take a lot of reps for players to get comfortable with each other.
“A lot of times people will talk about chemistry with pass and catch, and where somebody is going to be spotted up offensively, but working to get back in transition and get matched up at full speed, is one of the more difficult things.”
The Lakers have the means to at least be adequate in transition defense and if Vogel can get his team on the same page in that facet, they will be extremely difficult to beat.
Inconsistent practice times
The Lakers have been putting forth a lot of effort in practices to get back to the level they were at when the season stopped. Vogel and his staff have plans in place to get the Lakers on point, but are experiencing some other difficulties that were completely unexpected.
“And the practice times have really been all over the place; 6 p.m. at night, to now 9 a.m. in the morning,” Vogel said. “It’s different every day and now you don’t have control over it. We’ve had to tinker with what we do based on those practice times.”
The NBA is in charge of all practice times and allot each team three hours before coming and sanitizing the court before the next team can hold their session. Going from an evening practice to an early morning practice can make it tough to get in a rhythm, but Vogel and the Lakers will continue to make the best of whatever situation is presented.
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